It would not be unreasonable to expect that this week will be an improvement over last week in terms of mainstream offerings. Not unreasonable, no. But will we get such a thing? When the big offering is the purported “comeback” of M. Night Shyamalan…well, what do you think?
I should explain that while there are two “art” titles this week, only one of them was made available for review. I don’t know why, but it’s probably because it’s from a new distributor.
The one film I know is of note this week is Ken Loach’s Jimmy’s Hall — starting Friday at The Carolina. This more or less came out of nowhere (it wasn’t on the local radar till last week) and it turns out to be a winner, which actually came as something of a surprise to me. It’s not that I don’t appreciate Loach’s talents or his aims, but I’ve rarely much liked his films. Well, this one I not only liked, I came close to loving. It’s just as political, just as pointed as his earlier work, but it’s perhaps his warmest and most accessible work yet. The review is in this week’s Xpress.
The unscreened art film is Learning to Drive — starting Friday at The Carolina and the Fine Arts. It reunites star Ben Kingsley with his Elegy (2008) director Isabel Coixet, and this time teams him with Patricia Clarkson. Sight-unseen, I think we may safely conclude that this is Boomer-bait — perhaps even beyond that. Here’s the official write-up: “Isabel Coixet’s slice-of-life comedy/drama Learning to Drive stars Patricia Clarkson as Wendy, a middle-ages book critic who is shattered when her husband Ted (Jake Weber) leaves her. In order to visit her daughter (Grace Gummer), who lives upstate, Wendy begins taking driving lessons from Darwan (Ben Kingsley) an American citizen originally from India who makes a living as a cabbie and giving driving lessons. The two strike-up a friendship that helps her learn to take control of her life, and him adjust to his new life after an arranged marriage. Learning to Drive screened at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival.” The only slightly — and it’s only slight — worrisome aspect of this is that it took nearly a year for it to get distribution. We shall see.
In the sort of mainstream realm is Michael Polish’s 90 Minutes in Heaven — opening Friday at Epic of Hendersonville and Regal Biltmore Grande. What is it? Well, it’s a faith-based opus starring Hayden Christensen as Don Piper, a minister who was considered dead for 90 minutes after a car crash — and who later wrote a book about how he spent those 90 minutes in heaven. The film, you may note, is being touted as “Based on the Incredible True Story,” which only works as truth-in-advertising if you accept Piper’s story as…er gospel. Or at least demonstrably factual, which limits the audience to a pretty specific one. Kate Bosworth — coincidentally, the director’s wife — also stars. It has not been screened for critics.
Theoretically mainstream is David M. Rosenthal’s The Perfect Guy — which at this point only down as playing at Carmike 10, starting Friday. The film is listed as a “wide release,” but it’s being marketed as what can only be called a niche film. (The niche in this case being black audiences.) It’s supposed to be a mystery thriller and is described with this: “After a painful breakup, successful lobbyist Leah Vaughn jumps into a passionate relationship with a charming stranger. When her ex-boyfriend resurfaces in her life she has to figure out who she should trust and who she should fear.” It stars Sanaa Lathan, Michael Ealy, Morris Chestnut, Charles S. Dutton, and Tess Harper. Also not screened for critics.
Finally — and also not screened for critics — we have M. Night Shyamalan’s The Visit — starting Friday (with the usual Thu. night screenings) at The Carolina, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande, and UA Beaucatcher. This PG-13 horror film — which sounds more like a horror fairy tale — is (or was) supposed to be a return of sorts for Shyamalan. That it comes from Blumhouse bodes ill for us. That all you seem to have to do is announce who made it to kill any interest in it bodes ill for it. Universal says: “The terrifying story of a brother and sister who are sent to their grandparents’ remote Pennsylvania farm for a weeklong trip. Once the children discover that the elderly couple is involved in something deeply disturbing, they see their chances of getting back home are growing smaller every day.” You may note that they do not mention the director.
This week we lose The Diary of a Teenage Girl. The Fine Arts splits Mistress America (7:20, 9:20 Late shows Fri. and Sat.) with Phoenix (1:20, 4:20). The Carolina keeps Mistress America for a full schedule.
The Thursday Horror Picture Show has David Lynch’s Dune (1984) at 8 p.m. on Thu., Sept. 10 in Theater Six at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing the winner of this year’s Media Arts Festival Pagdi: The Honour on Fri., Sept. 11 at 8 p.m. at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District (upstairs in the Railroad Library). The festival continues the following day, Sept. 12 with Documentary winners: 1 p.m.- 3 p.m; Experimental winners: 3 p.m.- 4 p.m.; Short Drama winners: 4 p.m.- 6 p.m.; More Short Drama and Animation winners: 7:30 p.m.-10:30 p.m. The Hendersonville Film Society is screening Martin Ritt’s The Long, Hot Summer (1958) on Sun., Sept. 13 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society is running Claudette Colbert and Louise Beavers in John M. Stahl’s original 1934 version of Imitation of Life on Tue., Sept. 15 at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s Xpress — with complete reviews in the online edition.
Really, the best thing this week is Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s reworking of The Town That Dreaded Sundown (I’m surprised it wasn’t already out), but there’s also The Age of Adaline if you must know.